Lee County bus system continues to increase trips

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The Lee County Transit Coalition was again reminded of the importance of the county's bus system during a luncheon Thursday.

Since it began giving rides in September 2015, the Lee County bus system has provided more than 12,000 trips, according to Lottie Jones, executive director of the Santee-Wateree Regional Transportation Authority.

SWRTA provides public transportation to residents of Lee, Clarendon, Kershaw and Sumter counties and is the first source of public transportation to be offered in Lee County.

Jones said 3,000 trips were provided between September 2015 and September 2016, and 9,000 trips were provided between September 2016 to September 2017.

Lee County has four routes in Bishopville, one of which takes riders from Bishopville to Lynchburg - a 15.5-mile trip.

During a 2015 interview, Bettye Scott, chairwoman of Lee County Regional Task Force Coalition, said the city of Bishopville - with a population not exceeding 3,500 in recent years - did not even have a taxi service two years ago.

Though Scott heads the transit coalition, she has repeatedly said the bus system exists because of combined efforts between the Lee County Transit Coalition, SWRTA, Lee County resident, and local and state representatives. The transit coalition recognized many of the groups and individuals Thursday who assisted in making the bus system a reality.

Jones said there are plans to extend existing routes and add new routes in the future.

She said Lee County residents have expressed interest in expanding routes to Woodrow - about 12 miles away from Bishopville - and connecting the Lee County system to neighboring Sumter County.

Jones said Lee County residents have also asked for a route from Lynchburg to Florence - an almost 30-mile trip on Interstate 95 and nearly 20 miles on U.S. 76.

The ultimate goal is to connect a route between Bishopville, Lynchburg and Florence - approximately 32 miles, she said.